The passage of time is reflected in the gardens we've visited during this growing season.
By Carol Boncella
Journal-World Garden Writer
My very best friend celebrated a milestone birthday last week in the company of a few of his closest friends.
The small group was a mixture of colleagues, some people he has known for years and a few he only recently met. Among other things, he claimed their diversity is what attracted each of them to him in the first place. Yet, even in their differences, all these people are proud to know this man, none more so than me.
The group gathered to honor him, of course, and gently rib him on this momentous event. As the night wore on, they pondered things as magnificent as life itself and as ordinary as wind-up toys. Naturally, as one would expect on such an occasion, the passage of time and the changes it brings received a fair bit of reflection as well.
The whole experience put me in mind of the changing seasons. Besides a birthday party, what better place to reflect the annual passage of time and observe the diversity surrounding us than in the garden. In fact, my husband, Bob, speaks of the rich tapestry that is woven and unfolding right before our eyes in the fall garden.
Last Sunday, he helped me see this tapestry as we strolled into our garden in the early morning. The sound and smell of leaves underfoot unmistakably signaled autumn. We ended up sitting on our favorite bench near the creek. He pointed out the clear deep blue of the sky, the likes of which are not seen at any other time of the year. As we chatted, yellow leaves silently floated to the ground around us joining the assorted mixture of reds and oranges already lying on top of the grass.
During our years together, Bob and I have woven an interesting tapestry for ourselves, some of which grows in our garden. Maple trees that started out small enough for our then young daughters to jump over have, throughout the years, grown taller than our house. And now, their falling leaves once again mark the passage of time, the end of this year's growing season.
So where have we been this year? What kind of garden diversity have we seen? What friends have we made along the way?
At the onset we witnessed the hopeful beginnings as the earliest of bulbs came into full bloom when spring broke through the cold temperatures of winter. We probably all rejoiced at the sight of yellow and purple crocuses poking through the soil in our own gardens. And who could forget the thousands and thousands of tulips in the garden of Topekans Jerold and Joan Binkley? Those quintessential harbingers of spring relieved any remaining doubts that warmer weather was on its way.
I remember carefully stepping through the garden of Dick Schiefelbusch. We walked among hostas, columbine, iris and bleeding heart. At the time he was nurturing hundreds of volunteer impatiens and geranium cuttings, many of which he would generously give away to his friends and other visitors to his garden.
Aware how the passage of time affects things, this 80-year-old gardener told me that his garden would be a mass of color within three weeks. I never did go back to see for myself, although I have no reason to doubt him.
But, I did go to the garden of Roxanne Ebberts. Even before the truly warm days of summer, her garden was alive with wildflowers. And the garden of Wilma and Richard Ballard was as lush and green as any garden I've seen in the shade.
When May rolled around, my mother-in-law came to visit for several weeks. I took her with me when I toured the garden of Laura and Jim Owens. We had a grand time. I think it was one of the highlights of my mother-in-law's stay. She returned to her home in Florida before the article appeared in the paper. But I sent a copy to her. She wrote back saying she enjoyed the garden all over again while reading about it.
I received another letter -- this one from a woman in Maine whose grandson attends Hillcrest school. He had been so proud that "his" garden was in the paper that he had sent her the story. I was pleased she took the time to tell me about it.
Though readers of the Garden Spot may not have known it at the time, two gardens featured were those of my neighbors. The Nortons live right around the corner. I have watched, as has the whole neighborhood, as their garden changes and grows better each year.
My husband and I have known the Heffners more than 20 years. Talk about the passage of time. Their oldest son and our daughter were infants when we first met. Now, both are in college. Not only have our children grown up together, so have our plants. During the years we have traded plants so our gardens now contain a mixture from both. The Heffners have some of our hostas; we have some of their ground cover. We have some of their creeping phlox and they have some of our irises.
Summer in bloom
The connection continues. One call came in suggesting a visit to the Seuferling garden. My daughter used to baby-sit for this couple before college studies consumed so much of her time.
During the heart of summer we saw the full emergence of hundreds of flowers when we visited the gardens of Joan Reiber, the Weinbergs, the Speights and the Barnes. A few people asked me the exact location of the Loomis garden, hoping for a glimpse of their wonderful century old home as much as their garden. The relatively new gardens of Jack Landgrebe, Sonja Wood, Margaret Rose and Steve Ramberg also were impressive.
As summer turned to fall, gardeners became more reluctant to show off their places. The sun, relentless heat and inconsistent rainfall of late summer had played havoc with gardens. Indeed, the passage of time had taken its toll on the flowers and the tapestry of many gardens began to look a little ragged. But not Betty Campbell's garden. The heat-loving herbs were not bothered a bit it seemed. And the Hopkins' and Givens' gardens, filled with annuals, held up in fine fashion even as summer ebbed. Just last week the tropical papaya trees of Ocoee Miller were still enjoying the mild temperatures.
Many gardeners invite me to return to see their gardens at various times throughout the year, knowing how different they will look with the passage of time. The change of seasons permits a beautiful sequence of bloom in most gardens, taking advantage of each cycle of the growing season. Collectively, the gardeners themselves offer that richness of diversity that makes my job so much fun.
With the forecast for frost looming somewhere on the near horizon, the pace with which the tapestry in the continuing cycle of life is woven will merely slow down, not stop. As with all things, the passage of time continues.
In the end I believe gardens are like birthday parties -- they are enjoyed even as time passes. So next year, when my husband marks the first anniversary of the milestone birthday he celebrated this year, he will once again have an opportunity to reflect on how the passage of time weaves its rich tapestry in his life. And our garden will display a portion of it.
-- Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. You can send e-mail to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.